Of course, anyone can go to the party store and buy the latest “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” partyware, pick up a piñata, and then pop a movie into the TV. And for some kids – the very young, the shy, or the ones who don’t deal well with unusual happenings - this might be the best thing. You need to know your own child, and your child's friends, and understand what they will like.
But for the older kids, the slightly more adventuresome, I’ve got a list of things to make a party memorable.Sure, you could use skull-and-crossbones plates. But the kids might enjoy the more exotic feel of eating off wooden salad bowls. The words “Just like real pirates” can be tossed around when passing these out. And instead of paper cups, go to the dollar store and get plastic wine glasses or big plastic mugs. If you hit the store at the right season, you might even be able to get fake coconuts with straws. Not only will this add spice to the food, but the fancy cups make a nice take-home treat.
You can take a hint from the grown-up decorations. Thrift-store fabrics draped around the house, covering tables and TV’s is cheap, will protect your house, absorb spills, and you can throw them away if you want afterwards. You can also rummage through your Halloween decorations. Kids love skulls, chains and anything that looks like fire. (I’m thinking fake electric candles, and the Halloween effect where a tiny fan flutters streamers, and a red light makes it look like fire – usually as a torch or a cauldron of fire. No real flames for the little guys.)
You can buy a big pirate flag on-line for less than five dollars. Or you can print out a variety of pirate flag pictures.
The kids may enjoy having the bathroom labeled “poop deck” or the kitchen labeled “galley” In fact, just printing out piratey words like “Avast!” “Belay!” “Starboard” “Port” “Shiver me timbers” “Pieces of Eight” in a cool typeface would make good decorations, if the kids are old enough to read. I use Blackadder, which came with my computer.
A good kid’s party often includes a craft, and I can offer a couple that you may not have seen before. First is this lovely hand print pirate and parrot. It may be a little messy, but that’s why you have all the fabric draped around.
Craft number two is making your own pirate flag. The prep for this involves pre-cutting flag shapes out of black felt – they won’t need to be hemmed. The kids will paint their flags with regular acrylic craft paint, and you don’t need too many colors. Red and white will probably do, though you might want to add black for painting over mistakes.
*Hint – if you want to paint a skull, start by drawing two circles side by side (eyes), and a point-up triangle (nose) right below them. Surround all of this with a sideways oval (outside of head) and color it in. Then paint lines down from the skull to make teeth.
Games are also a staple of kid’s parties. Outside, a tug-of-war would be a great piratey game, and if you have a big yard and don’t mind digging a hole, you could even bury a treasure and make a map. If you don’t have a big yard, and this idea really appeals to you, bury your treasure in a flowerpot or hide it. Gold pirate coins can be bought in party stores, and really nice wooden “pirate” chests can be found at Michaels craft stores or JoAnn fabric and craft stores. Go on line and get a coupon – it will save you about 50%.
On a much simpler note, I’ve also used a game I call “island hopping.” Cut random shapes from craft paper or felt – each about 18” across, and at least one per child. Play music, and let the kids hop from “island” to “island”, stopping the music from time to time so everyone has to pick a spot. If you like, you can remove one island ever time, like musical chairs, though I found the kids just liked jumping, and didn’t need it to be a competition.
You can buy a CD of children’s pirate songs online, or check out your local library. I recommend “Pirates of the Caribbean- Swashbuckling Sea Songs” though there are many others as well. Please note – if the CD is not specifically aimed at children, beware! A lot of sea songs are “salty” and you may have some explaining to do if you don’t choose versions made for children.
The kids may enjoy singing along, too. Pick a simple tune like “Yo Ho, Yo Ho A Pirate’s Life for Me” and encourage lots of loud voices! Kids love to sing, and your pirate songs may be the most memorable part of your party.
Kid’s parties end with food and cake. Fruit salad is a good idea, and rounds of bread can be “ship’s biscuit.” Kids also love “meat on a stick” which is nothing more than chicken strips on skewers, grilled and served with dipping sauce. Once again, though, know your guests! Some kids will eat nothing but chicken nuggets.
Is this a lot of work? Yes. But it can be the coolest party ever. I hope you enjoy throwing it, and that your kids remember the pirate fun for years to come. (Oh, and if you throw the party, I’d love to see pictures!)